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Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's dialect or language.


Defining slang

Few linguists have endeavored to clearly define what constitutes slang.[1] Attempting to remedy this, Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter argue that an expression should be considered "true slang" if it meets at least two of the following criteria:

  • It lowers, if temporarily, "the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing"; in other words, it is likely to be seen in such contexts as a "glaring misuse of register."
  • Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term.
  • "It is a taboo term in ordinary discourse with people of a higher social status or greater responsibility."
  • It replaces "a well-known conventional synonym." This is done primarily to avoid "the discomfort caused by the conventional item [or by] further elaboration.

An example would be "getting a pop, meaning getting a haircut, or buying threads as in buying clothes."[1] Slang should be distinguished from jargon, which is the technical vocabulary of a particular profession. Jargon, like many examples of slang, may be used to exclude non–group members from the conversation, but in general has the function of allowing its users to talk precisely about technical issues in a given field.

Extent and origins of slang

Slang can be regional, in that it is used only in a particular territory, but slang terms often are particular to a certain subculture, such as music. Nevertheless, slang expressions can spread outside their original areas to become commonly used, like "cool" and "jive." While some words eventually lose their status as slang (the word "mob", for example, began as a slang shortening of Latin mobile vulgus[2]), others continue to be considered as such by most speakers. When slang spreads beyond the group or subculture that originally uses it, its original users often replace it with other, less-recognized terms to maintain group identity. One use of slang is to circumvent social taboos, as mainstream language tends to shy away from evoking certain realities. For this reason, slang vocabularies are particularly rich in certain domains, such as violence, crime, drugs, and sex. Alternatively, slang can grow out of mere familiarity with the things described. Among Californian wine connoisseurs, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon is often known as "Cab Sav," Chardonnay as "Chard" and so on;[3] this means that naming the different wines expends less superfluous effort.

Even within a single language community, slang tends to vary widely across social, ethnic, economic, and geographic strata. Slang may fall into disuse over time; sometimes, however, it grows more and more common until it becomes the dominant way of saying something, at which time it usually comes to be regarded as mainstream, acceptable language (e.g. the Spanish word caballo), although in the case of taboo words there may be no expression that is considered mainstream or acceptable. Numerous slang terms pass into informal mainstream speech, and sometimes into formal speech, though this may involve a change in meaning or usage.

Slang very often involves the creation of novel meanings for existing words. It is common for such novel meanings to diverge significantly from the standard meaning. Thus, "cool" and "hot" can both mean "very good," "impressive," or "good-looking".

Slang terms are often known only within a clique or ingroup. For example, Leet ("Leetspeak" or "1337") originally was popular only among certain Internet subcultures, such as crackers (malicious "hackers") and online videogamers. During the 1990s, and into the early 21st century, however, Leet became increasingly more commonplace on the Internet, and it has spread outside Internet-based communication and into spoken languages.[4] Other types of slang include SMS language used on mobile phones, and "chatspeak," (e.g., "LOL," an acronym meaning "laughing out loud" or "laugh out loud" or ROFL, rolling on the floor laughing), which is widely used in instant messaging on the Internet.

Distinction between slang and colloquialisms

Some linguists make a distinction between slangisms (slang words) and colloquialisms. According to Ghil'ad Zuckermann, "slang refers to informal (and often transient) lexical items used by a specific social group, for instance teenagers, soldiers, prisoners and thieves. Slang is not the same as colloquial (speech), which is informal, relaxed speech used on occasion by any speaker; this might include contractions such as 'you’re,' as well as colloquialisms. A colloquialism is a lexical item used in informal speech; whilst the broadest sense of the term ‘colloquialism’ might include slangism, its narrow sense does not. Slangisms are often used in colloquial speech but not all colloquialisms are slangisms. One method of distinguishing between a slangism and a colloquialism is to ask whether most native speakers know the word (and use it); if they do, it is a colloquialism. However, the problem is that this is not a discrete, quantized system but a continuum. Although the majority of slangisms are ephemeral and often supplanted by new ones, some gain non-slang colloquial status (e.g. English silly – cf. German selig ‘blessed’, Middle High German sælde ‘bliss, luck’ and Zelda, a Jewish female first name) and even formal status (e.g. English mob)."[5]


  1. ^ a b Dumas, Bethany K. and Lighter, Jonathan (1978) "Is Slang a Word for Linguists?" American Speech 53 (5): 14-15.
  2. ^ Online Etymological Dictionary
  3. ^ Croft, William (2000) Explaining Language Change: An Evolutionary Approach. Harlow: Longman: 75-6.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Anthony (December 6 2005). "A Leet Primer". Retrieved on 2007-11-05. 
  5. ^ See p. 21 in ‘‘Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew’’, by Zuckermann, Ghil’ad, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



1756, origin unknown.





slang (uncountable)

  1. Language outside of conventional usage.
  2. Language that is unique to a particular profession or subject; jargon.
  3. The specialized language of a social group, sometimes used to make what is said unintelligible to those not members of the group; cant.
    • 1872, George Eliot, Middlemarch
      "Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is getting to be shopkeepers' slang."
      "Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?" said Rosamond, with mild gravity.
      "Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks a class."
      "There is correct English: that is not slang."
      "I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets."



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


to slang

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to slang (third-person singular simple present slangs, present participle slanging, simple past and past participle slanged)

  1. (transitive, dated) To vocally abuse, or shout at.
    • 1888: Also, he had to keep his temper when he was slanged in the theatre porch by a policeman — Rudyard Kipling, ‘Miss Youghal's Sais’, Plain Tales from the Hills (Folio Society 2007, p. 26)



Czech Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia cs


slang m.

  1. slang




slang f.

  1. snake
  2. hose (flexible tube)


Derived terms


Etymology 1

From Dutch.


  • IPA: [slɑŋ(g)]


slang f

  1. hose (flexible tube)

Etymology 2

From English.


  • IPA: [slæŋ(g)]


slang f

  1. slang



English slang



slang n. (plural slanguri)

  1. slang



  • argou



Inflection for slang Singular Plural
common Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Base form slang slangen slangar slangarna
Possessive form slangs slangens slangars slangarnas
Declination for slang Singular Uncountable
Common Indefinite Definite
Base form slang slangen
Possessive form slangs slangens


  1. hose, tube
  2. slang

Simple English

Slang is words that are informal. Usually each generation or social group has its own slang - for example, older people can have trouble understanding the slang of younger people. On the other hand, younger people often understand, but find silly or old-fashioned, the slang of older people.

Over time, language tends to get more complex, since new words enter much faster than old words leave. Over time, slang almost always becomes part of the language, and approved for use by all.

It has also happened that some words used in Anglo-Saxon for bodily functions became thought of as profanity or rude after they were replaced by Latinate words like "urinate", "defecate" and "copulate" - which polite people were supposed to use after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. This was in part a way of making poor people (who spoke Anglo-Saxon) all appear to be rude, while more powerful people (who spoke Norman) appeared to be polite - one way that etiquette can develop, and reinforce power structure. This is only one example from history of how racism can be a reason for defining one group's language as 'slang' and another as 'correct'.

Wanting to have rules of grammar that do not change and the same vocabulary used by everyone for better communication is another reason that is often given for defining one group's language as correct.

An "idiom" can be slang, but it can also be a metaphor that becomes part of the culture.

See also:

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